Is Tom Brady the greatest athlete of all time?
That’s debatable for sure. What is much more obvious is a feature in the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport Badlands called G.O.A.T. It stands for “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain” and is an obvious nod to a sports term. In a “normal” Ford Bronco, the terrain modes include sand, slippery, sport, eco, and normal. The Badlands version adds Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
With each setting, you can expect different driving mechanics and power distribution to the wheels, but what really caught my eye is what happens when you use the dial. In the main display above the steering wheel, there are animated videos that change as you turn the G.O.A.T. dial. They are about the coolest animations I have seen in any vehicle. (Watch the video to see how the display looks).
For example, when you select the Mud/Ruts option, you see mud flying and a tire imprint. With the slippery setting, the animation shows freezing ice solidifying. (I feel like that is a cheeky warning specific to drivers in my area of the Midwest and a bit confusing to Arizona drivers.) All of the animations are eye-catching enough that, when I climbed into the Bronco (and I do mean, climbed — this vehicle is a good high-step off the ground similar to a Wrangler), I would turn the dial just to watch them. That never happens. I also like the animation that plays when you first open the door, a high-res greeting that says welcome to off-road adventures.
All of these are aesthetically pleasing and give you the sense that Ford wanted this to be a unique vehicle. Let’s just say you won’t see them in a Fusion. Of course, the real test is seeing how they actually work, and fortunately, some rain at a local park provided just the right proving grounds. Using the mud setting, I found some thick stuff near a disc golf course where no one was around and gunned it around a sloshy mess of mud and rain. It’s fun to try and get yourself stuck, even if you know that it is unlikely. The Bronco almost laughed at me.
(By the way, my all-time greatest test was with a Wrangler a few years ago. I drove through about two feet of water near my house. Then, later that week after a heavy snowfall, I tried to get stuck in my front yard. What’s cool about these tests is how easy it is for a “real” 4×4 or off-roading vehicle to plow out of these conditions.)
The Bronco has the ground clearance, the off-roading tires, and the computer-controlled power distribution needed to make it all seem easy. On muddy and snowy roads, I had no problem with slide-outs or slippage. On the highway, the Bronco handles just as securely on the road. A curiosity of driving so many cars over the last 10 years is that you start to “feel” when the computer-controlled tire monitoring starts to engage on slick roads. Sometimes it even goes so far as knowing which vehicle manufacturer is slightly more aggressive about this than others. (The Mercedes-Benz AMG E450 for example has a more aggressive lane-keeping technology that keeps the car centered and nudges you more abruptly back into place.)
What’s next after this for the Bronco? I’m envisioning more animations, especially those that help you understand what is happening and the differences between the modes. For now, the Bronco really is the G.O.A.T. in terms of interactive animations.